Published: Monday, January 23, 2012, 6:58 AM
Kamal Saleem claims to have been a former Islamic radical and terrorist before converting to Christianity. He has since published a book detailing his experiences and makes regular tours speaking about his life and views.
”He had entered the U.S. and gotten in an accident, and received medical care,” said Carol Dannenberg, of Constituting Michigan-Founding Principles. “He thought, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t want to hurt these people.’ He was raised to believe that there was no hope, that killing was a good thing.”
”I met Saleem in my travels to Lansing,” said Bill Sage, one of the co-founders of Constituting Michigan. “He’s here to talk about keeping American law in American courts, to make sure that the Constitution is what we’re drawing from.”
Sage characterizes the organization’s main focus as education reform and a return to focusing on the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights in schools. Sage will also be speaking at the event, as will state Rep. Dave Agema, according to organizers. Agema is one of the sponsors of House Bill 4769, which seeks “to restrict the application of foreign laws” in Michigan. Opponents have characterized the bill as discriminatory towards Islam.
Saleem himself is also the subject of controversy. Questions have been raised regarding the authenticity of his claims, as well as the goals of his speeches.
”I believe he’s a complete fraud, and his claims are bogus,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR-Michigan, an American-Islamic relations council. “He says he’s been reformed by the Holy Ghost. If he were an actual former terrorist who snuck into the U.S., the FBI or immigration services would’ve detained and deported him by now.”
Walid claims that Saleem’s real name is Khodor Shami and that many details of his background do not add up.
”He’s profiting off the cottage industry of Islamophobia,” Walid said. “If he thinks that I’m lying, that I’m trying to falsely discredit him, he should sue me for defamation.”
Sage claims much of the controversy surrounding Saleem is the result of media bias.
”People don’t like his message, they don’t want him out there,” said Sage. “But if you listen to Kamal, you’ll understand.”
Walid encourages caution.
”Individuals should research his claims, and form their own opinions,” said Walid. “Don’t be taken in just because it sounds interesting.”